Rethinking the Study of Foreign Policy? Again?

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Nador u. 9, Faculty Tower
Thursday, October 20, 2011 - 5:30pm
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Thursday, October 20, 2011 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm

Early studies of foreign policy aimed at informing future practitioners and observers about the practical knowledge necessary to their trade. The early insistence on the ‘National Interest’ was but an expression of socializing these practitioners into that background knowledge which would develop their ‘capacity of judgment’. With the advent of ‘Foreign Policy Analysis’ the justification of that capacity could no longer be derived from such socialization into practical knowledge. Indeed, basing the study of foreign policy now resolutely on the level of observation, the aim was no longer the capacity of judgment, but the meticulous dissection of all factors pertinent to foreign policy action. It was no longer focusing on the normative content of foreign policy (what the best foreign policy for a country should be), but on the process of how foreign policy action, good or bad, came about. But also ‘Foreign Policy Analysis’ ran into a major problem which made it basically stagnate since the 1980s: heaping one factor after another into the analysis of foreign policy behavior, the analysis looked like ‘everything but the kitchen sink’, losing sight of the forest for all the trees, never able to really develop its initial comparative theoretical aims. Yet last two decades have seen signs of a certain re-invigoration. First, there have been new attempts to combine an analytical approach with a concern to the National Interest and hence a renewed interest in diverse theories. Second, there has also been a shift away from sheer factor-accumulation in FPA with a concern to how those factors may be combined in a more historical manner.

Stefano Guzzini is Professor of Government at Uppsala University and Senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies. He has published on International Relations theory, Foreign Policy Analysis and Power Analysis. This year, one of his articles, “The concept of power: a constructivist analysis”, was selected by the editors of Millennium for the their anniversary issue as one of “the seven ground-breaking articles from the archive that showcase the journal’s impact on international relations over the past four decades”. The article was chosen to represent the entire decade of 2001-2011.